LAWYERS for one of of the boys convicted of murdering Ana Kriegel have claimed there is a “significant question mark” over admissions he made to gardai and the way he was interviewed was “inadequate and inappropriate”.
Boy B's defence has said fresh expert evidence states he was subject to "manipulation and pressure" when he was questioned by investigating officers, and he is seeking to use this evidence in his forthcoming appeal.
A prosecuting barrister opposed the application at the Court of Appeal and said he stood "100 percent behind" the gardai in how they conducted the interviews.
Mr Justice George Birmingham said the court was reserving a decision and hoped to deliver it in the coming weeks.
The now 17-year-old Boy B and his co-accused Boy A were found guilty by a Central Criminal Court jury in June 2019 of murdering Ana at a derelict house in St Catherine’s Park in Lucan in May 2018. Boy A was also convicted of Ana's aggravated sexual assault.
Boy B lured Ana (14) to the house on the pretext that Boy A wanted to meet her. When she arrived Boy A launched a violent attack on her. Boy B was sentenced to 15 years’ detention, to be reviewed after eight years.
Boy A was sentenced to life imprisonment with a review after 12 years, and eight years imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault.
Boy B was not in court for today's hearing but his parents and brother were present.
His barrister James Dwyer SC said the prosecution had relied at trial on the “evolving nature” of what he said in interviews to establish that he had lied.
Two experts in forensic psychology and psychiatry analysed the videos of interview and one gave the opinion that the interviewing was “inadequate and inappropriate” under six headings: the duration of the interviews, techniques used, manipulation and pressure, repetition, cumulative impact, ineffective advice and overriding of caution in the context of the accused at the time being an 13-year-old boy.
An expert said children give in more to pressure than adults, concluding that “the mind of Boy B was substantially overborne".
It was stated that the issue of Boy B being unforthcoming in interview was more down to his “immature emotional processing” than “deliberate and callous motivation.”
This raised the real possibility that he had given some misleading incriminating details of what happened in the abandoned house.
Mr Justice Birmingham said it was “remarkable” that it was being sought to adduce evidence directed at issues that were never pursued at trial - the admissibility of the interviews. The trial was over several weeks with full legal teams provided to both accused, he said.
Mr Dwyer said the prosecution had relied almost entirely on interviews which a “renowned authority” said was conducted “inappropriately".
An unsuccessful attempt was made by the defence during the trial to call a psychologist to offer an explanation to the jury as to why Boy B initially told lies, the court heard.
It was a “very unusual case,” Mr Dwyer said.
He made five main points - the first was that the fresh evidence related to the “core of the prosecution case," which was the interviews.
Secondly, the fresh evidence was “very high quality” from people of “significant expertise and renown”, he said, and the case related an alleged murder by a 13 year old. Central to the prosecution case was an assertion that Boy B was an “articulate, capable and intelligent child” and the defence said the evidence shows that to be a “misinterpretation of his demeanour.”
The fifth point was that there had been no tactical advantage to be gained by Boy B in not challenging the admissibility of the interviews at trial.
It was not just a case where the defence was saying they now had “better experts than before,” Mr Dwyer argued.
“We say the evidence we have now is of a radically different nature, addressing a different issue,” he said.
There was a “significant question mark” over Boy B’s admissions which were at the core of the case against him, Mr Dwyer said.
It was important to note that the “main accused” - Boy A - had not appealed his conviction.
Replying, Brendan Grehan SC, for the DPP, said it was “extraordinary” that the academic defence experts had not interviewed the boy and suggested that he “still disputed” aspects of what he told gardai.
Mr Grehan said Boy B had in fact never disputed the admissions he made in interview and this remained the position.
He had told “repeated lies” to gardai which were never disputed, he said.
Mr Grehan stood “100 percent behind” the gardai in their conduct of the interviews. The defence, clearly acting on Boy B’s instructions throughout, had relied on the truthfulness of the last account he gave gardai while “explaining away” why he told lies.
The whole defence was predicated on what he ultimately told gardai - that Boy B was the person who lured Ana from her house in the guise of a romantic encounter with Boy A, Mr Grehan said.
He took her to the park and a “dark, derelict house for this supposed romantic interlude, that he knew preparations had been put in place” for their arrival, he provided the builders tape used in the strangulation and he remained and “voyeuristically watched” Boy A beat and sexually assault Ana.
He admitted he knew Boy A previously expressed an intention of killing Ana.
Investigating gardai went out of their way time and again in respect of the fact that they were dealing with children, Mr Grehan said.
Boy B had an IQ score in the 94th percentile, he said. Boy B had never accepted he made any incriminating admissions in interview, Mr Grehan said. The boy's position was that he had told the truth, that he was no more than an innocent bystander to the “vile acts of Boy A”.
“This was a case run by Mr Justice Paul McDermott with the utmost consideration for the rights of the accused throughout,” he said.
“I say the accused is patently an articulate, intelligent boy, it’’s somehow suggested that his demeanour may have been misread.”
“It was as clear an exposition of somebody lying when they thought they could get away with it, and only admitting things when the gardai are able to prove that the previous account was lies,” Mr Grehan said of the interviews.
It appeared the gardai were imploring Boy B to tell the truth and there was a suggestion by the defence that to do that “somehow countermands the caution.”
It was crystal clear that Boy B understood the caution, and the gardai did not at any stage raise their voices, Mr Grehan said.
The defence had picked their grounds, which they ran at trial and the jury rejected those grounds, he said.
“Seeking to redo matters now, particularly in the vacuum of a lack of any suggestion of a change of position by Boy B is unsustainable,” he said.
Mr Dwyer said there was no onus on someone when seeking to exclude interviews to put forward that the account given in them was incorrect. If the interview evidence were to be excluded, there would be "almost no evidence" against Boy B, he said.